December 23, 1852

santa-in-sleigh-with-reindeersanta-claus-reindeer-public-domain-super-heroes-dfpwrpfw-e1387694367744

 

Thursday Dec 23d  Have been at work part of the

time on Susans sack & part of the time

fixing work for Catharine  She has got Susans

skirt ready for gathering and run the breadths

of my raw silk  Helen came home in

the stage to night Heard Susan practice

an hour this evening she does not take as

much interest as I could wish

 

Orville L. Holley, editor of theTroy [N.Y.] Sentinel, didn’t know who had written the poem. It had been sent in by a friend of the anonymous author. But Holley was looking for good Christmas copy, so on this date in 1823, he published A Visit from St. Nicholas,* with “cordial thanks to whoever had sent him these Christmas verses.”* He knew the piece was good, but he couldn’t have imagined the lasting fame it would receive. He couldn’t have foretold how iconic Twas the Night Before Christmas would become.

It would be another fourteen years, more or less, until the public discovered the name of the author. He was Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of oriental and Greek literature at General Theological Seminary in New York City and author of several academic works such as Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language. He was also a poet, and the father of nine children. He had written A Visit from St. Nicholas for his older children and read it to them on Christmas Eve, 1822. A friend of the family had heard the poem, copied it, and sent it to the newspaper. Aren’t we lucky she saved it? Professor Moore, by the way, was born in 1779 and died in 1863 – the same life span as Old Oliver Ames.

Did Evelina know this poem? Was she familiar with St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and other Christmas lore that immigrated from the Old World to the New? Reader that she was, she was bound to know about Christmas. But so far in her life, it was a holiday that others, and not she, celebrated.

Her grandchildren would one day know the poem by heart. Dash away, dash away, dash away all!

 

*Information on Clement Clarke Moore and A Visit from St. Nicholas can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org

 

December 17, 1852

Waiter

Friday, Dec 17th  Had a north east storm and a very rough

night and I was quite sick got into Boston

about ten and went to the Marlboro Hotel

to breakfast sick and tired. Went out shopping

bought Delaine for a double gown & morning

dress  Home in the stage at the usual time

This evening attended a lecture by Dr Holmes

on lectures & lecturing  Mrs Ames here to tea

 

“[I]t snowd last [night] about 3 inches and there was some rain with it – and it raind most of the forenoon and in the after noon it was verry foggy + warm + the snow about all gone there was an inch of water in all – Oakes + his Wife got home + Mrs George Ames with them”*  This is the only place in his entire decades-long journal that Old Oliver mentions his daughter-in-law and, per the custom of the day, he doesn’t even mention Evelina by name. The weather, however, he describes in detail.

Evelina describes a “very rough” trip from New York to Boston, one that made her ill. Yet she managed to recover after breakfast at the Marlboro Hotel. This trip is the only time in Evelina’s diary that she mentions dining in restaurants, first in New York and again in Boston. Dining out was not something that was done by women like her; restaurants generally catered to men, who could go out in public unaccompanied. But as Evelina was traveling with her husband, she was an acceptable customer. This exposure to aspects of the men’s normal world was a true adventure for her.

Not one to miss an opportunity to shop, Evelina bought some fabric in Boston before catching the stagecoach home. Back in North Easton, she seemed to settle back in quickly, perhaps unpacking and visiting around the immediate family, members of whom would have wanted to know about Oakes Angier’s departure. Almira Ames came for tea, and Evelina still had energy enough to attend an evening lecture in the village. The woman had stamina.

The lecturer that night was none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes, famous Boston physician, professor and poet – “a confirmed generalist”  who “regarded his eclecticism as a mark of intellectual superiority.”** Besides lecturing on lectures, he also gave talks about medicine and poetry. They were generally interesting and well attended, as they must have been to pull a fatigued Evelina out to listen to him.***

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

**Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, New York, 2001, p.58

***Information of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) courtesy of Wikipedia; identity researched by reader Jessica Holland.

December 16, 1852

home3

Stonington, Connecticut, 19th century*

Thursday Dec 16th  Went out shopping awhile with Mrs

Ames but did not purchase much and was

hardly able to walk such sore feet  We went

to Burtons last eve did not think much

of the play & wished myself somewhere else

We left New York about 4 Oclock in the Stonington

boat  Mrs Ames came with us  The weather not

very pleasant

Evelina and Oakes stayed in New York City over night after seeing their son set sail for Cuba. Perhaps to take their minds off Oakes Angier’s departure, they attended a play at the popular Burton’s Theatre on Chambers Street off Broadway. Burton’s, originally known as Palmo’s Opera House, was built in 1844 and would be torn down in 1876. Managed by actor William Burton, it generally offered light fare like comedies and musicals. It wasn’t light enough for Evelina, though. She couldn’t attend to the performance, either because her feet hurt or she couldn’t stop thinking about Oakes Angier.

Where the couple stayed in New York is unclear, although both the Astor House and the Clifford Hotel are mentioned. The Astor House was a world-famous hotel. Built in 1836 by John Jacob Astor, it attracted a high-end clientele throughout much of the 19th century. Oakes may have stayed there before on the sales trips he made to the city, though it seems too dear for the frugal style he preferred. In all likelihood, this would have been the first time Evelina had spent a night there. In the future, the Astor Hotel wouldn’t be the usual spot for the Ames men when they traveled to New York. A decade later, as they began to be active in the building of the Union Pacific, Oakes, Oliver Jr., and fellow directors would stay at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The City of New York would become very familiar to them.

In the afternoon, with Almira Ames, Evelina and Oakes boarded the steamboat for home. Almira had been at the docks, too, to watch Oakes Angier depart. She was a constant, attentive friend to all the family (and a relative by marriage) and no doubt made good company for Evelina as they bounced across Long Island Sound in rough water. How glad they all must have been to make landfall at Stonington, Connecticut and catch the train for Boston, where they would spend the night.*

*Image courtesy of Stonington Historical Society

 

December 15, 1852

USS_James_Adger

Steamer James Adger

Wednesday Dec 15th  Got into New York about 5 Oclock

had a very pleasant night  Breakfast at

the Astor House & then called on Mrs A L Ames

OAA & self dined at the Clifford House  Mrs Ames

went with us to see Oakes A start for Charleston

at 3 Oclock, there met Mr Colter & Mr C Swain

who were there on the same errand  Mr Ames

settled at the Astor & went to the Clifford House

The 16th music lesson

 

Evelina Gilmore Ames woke up in New York City on this December weekday, far away from her needle and thread. After a last meal with Oakes Angier, she went to the waterfront to bid farewell as he boarded his vessel. With her husband and some family friends – including Charles Swain, brother of John H. Swain of North Easton – she waved goodbye to Oakes Angier, not knowing if she would ever see him again.

Emotions ran high, no doubt, but they must have competed for attention with the immediate scene around her. The sheer scale of din and clamor on the docks would have been like nothing Evelina had experienced before. A comparable departure from New York Harbor for Cuba was recorded by fellow New Englander Richard Henry Dana in 1859. He describes a steamer as she is ready to sail:

[H]er decks are full, and the mud and snow of the pier are well trodden by men and horses. Coaches drive down furiously, and nervous passengers put their heads out to see if the steamer is off before her time; and on the decks, and in the gangways, inexperienced passengers run against everybody, and mistake the engineer for the steward, and come up the same stairs they go down, without knowing it. In the dreary snow, the newspaper vendors cry the papers, and the book vendors thrust yellow covers into your face – “Reading for the voyage, sir – five hundred pages, close print!”[…] The great beam of the engine moves slowly up and down, and the black hull sways at its fasts. A motley crew are the passengers. Shivering Cubans, exotics that have taken slight root in the hothouses of Fifth Avenue, are to brave a few days of sleet and cold at sea, for the palm trees and mangoes, the cocoas and orange trees, they will be sitting under in six days, at farthest. There are Yankee shipmasters going out to join their “cotton wagons” at New Orleans and Mobile, merchants pursuing a commerce that knows no rest and no locality; confirmed invalids advised to go to Cuba to die under mosquito nets and be buried in a Potter’s Field; and other invalids […] and here and there, a mere vacation maker, like myself.”*

Three ships were cleared to sail on December 15, 1852, from New York Harbor: the Steamer James Adger, the Bark Caroline and the Schooner Aramis. The latter two vessels cleared but did not depart, perhaps waiting for more favorable wind or tide. The steamship, the hybrid of its day, was new, having been built that year in New York. Not having to wait for wind or tide, the James Adger cleared and sailed, its destination being Charleston, South Carolina, a port of call on the way to Cuba. To date, we don’t know which ship Oakes Angier was on, but we might imagine that he – and his father, who no doubt played a roll in making these arrangements – opted for the newest, fastest vessel. Steamships were the way to go.

And off he went.

*Richard Henry Dana, To Cuba and Back, 1859, courtesy of Echo Library

 

December 14, 1852

 

Train

 

Tuesday Dec 14th  Went to Boston with Mr Ames & Oakes A

and all dined at Mr Orrs  Was undecided 

whether to go with them to New York untill it

was nearly time for the cars to start but feared

if I did not go that I might reflect on it

hereafter  Mr & Mrs Norris accompanied us

to the cars  O A Ames & self called at Mrs Dorrs

just before we started.  Bought some crockery

at Collamores & Perkins

 

Old Oliver recorded the momentous departure of his oldest grandson: “[T]his was a fair day wind north west, midling cold  Oakes Angier Started for Cuba to day and his Father went to New York with him”*  Oakes Angier was ill and had been advised to seek a more healthful climate in Cuba. After a week of preparation, he and both his parents headed into Boston to catch the train for New York, where Oakes Angier would board a ship bound for the West Indies.

Initially hesitant, Evelina had been afraid to commit to traveling to New York with her husband and son. But the real possibility of never seeing Oakes Angier again impelled Evelina to board “the cars” and go – a huge step for the small town soul. She managed a bit of shopping in Boston before boarding; the familiarity and ease of that activity may have helped allay her agitation about traveling.

The train that the family took would likely have been the early Hartford and New Haven Railroad, which connected to a train in Springfield or a steamship in southern Connecticut.** Caleb and Melinda Norris (she of the brand new dressing case) went with them to the station. Evelina and her family must have felt reassured to wave goodbye to caring friends. Everyone was hoping for the very best for Oakes Angier.

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

** Ed. note: The development of railroad and steamship lines was rapid and ever-changing during this period; ownerships and lines merged and competed constantly. It’s difficult to pin down the exact route that the Ameses would have traveled between Boston and New York. Railroad buffs, please weigh in.

 

 

December 13, 1852

Valise

 

Monday 

Dec 13th  I have been to work for OAA again to

day as I suppose I shall as long as he stays

as I cannot set myself about any thing

else It is town meeting day and they

have come home not feeling very well satisfied

I have my clothes in the valise so that

I can go to New York with them if I wish

when the time comes but now feel undecided

As the clock ticked down, Evelina was in a quandary. Should she go with her husband Oakes to New York to see their eldest son sail off to Cuba? Distinctly “undecided,” she nonetheless packed a valise. She’d be ready just in case, but right now she couldn’t concentrate on “any thing else” except last minute details for Oakes Angier. He would be leaving tomorrow.

The men, meanwhile, seemed calm. Old Oliver reported on the weather, of course: “[I]t was fair this morning but clouded up about noon and there was about an inch of snow fell in the afternoon wind south west but pritty chilly.”* Chilly or not, Oakes and his sons, probably, attended a town meeting. Evelina doesn’t share the reason for the meeting, only that things didn’t go the way her family members had hoped.

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

December 12, 1852

 

NYC1852

New York City, 1852

Sunday Dec 12th  We have all been to meeting OAA

came home at noon  Mrs Witherell & self

called to see Mrs Whitwell who was not

well and not out to church  Mother

& Lavinia went home  Mr Ames

& self called to Mr Swains & Augustus

OAA has decided to leave here for NY Tuesday

 

This was Oakes Angier’s last Sunday at church before departing. We might imagine that he was approached by well-wishers at the intermission, or else he escaped the crowd by heading home before they could gather. He might have avoided the afternoon service for that reason, or for fear of having to cough.

Oakes Angier would be sailing from New York City on Wednesday and, cutting it close, decided to depart for the city on Tuesday. There was no time to lose in making last minute arrangements. After church, Evelina and Oakes called on John Swain and Alson Augustus Gilmore, two of Oakes’s most trusted employees.  Did they assist in arranging for passage, or procuring letters of introduction for Oakes Angier? We must remember that none of the travel arrangements could have been quickly accomplished in this age before the telephone and the internet. Such plans were made in person, on foot or horseback. It’s not out of line to think that Oakes and his son had help; it’s possibly why Augustus had gone with Oakes Angier into Boston on Friday, to finalize paperwork necessary for the journey.

Evelina, despite her worries, was able to get out of herself enough to pay a call on Eliza Whitwell, the minister’s wife, who was “not well.” Sarah Witherell went with her.